Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.Hyperion Hotel – Los Angeles – January 2004
Entering the dining room Spike spotted Dawn already sat down working her way through a stack of pancakes and headed towards her immediately walking straight into a table impacting it with a hefty thump. ‘Oh bloody hell’ he swore and walked around the thing, glaring at everyone in the room who had dared to start laughing. This included the large table at the other end of the room which surrounded by slayers who had been on the Pylean mission and who were still talking about it enthusiastically as they ate breakfast.
To her credit Dawn herself wasn’t laughing but she was
smiling pretty hard as she took another bite of maple syrup covered pancake goodness. Andrew made them really well, just fluffy enough in consistency to be perfect and he always made sure to keep some back for her when she arrived for breakfast even if she was usually late. Spike took a seat next to her and she pushed a mug towards him.
Spike looked at the mug warily. ‘Blood?’ he asked.
‘Pigs blood’ Dawn answered after swallowing. ‘I gave it a few seconds in the microwave for you, not enough to make it icky’ she told him, ‘well no more icky than usual’ she added. ‘Try it.’
Spike frowned, he didn’t like drinking blood in front of the knibblet even if she was well used to seeing Angel doing it after living in his place for over half a year. He lifted the mug and daintily took a sip which turned into a decent gulp when the flavour hit his tastebuds. ‘Is that otter in there too?’ he asked.
Dawn nodded. ‘Just a little bit’ she told him. ‘Illyria mentioned trying it, something about improving the taste?’
‘Damn right it does’ Spike responded taking another swig, ‘bloody ambrosia’ he added savouring it, ‘almost as good as human without any of the subsequent guilt trips or staking’ he explained with a wink. ‘Illyria?’ he queried.
‘I think she likes you, more than Angel anyway because I don’t think she ever suggested it to him’ Dawn replied.
‘If you want my opinion she just likes hitting me’ Spike responded. ‘Now I’m a real boy again she wants to start sparring like we did before I got ghosted’ he told her clearly less than enthused at the idea. ‘Even hitting her hurts your bleeding knuckles’ he told Dawn, ‘let alone what it feels like when she hits you
’ he continued with a grimace. ‘And the thing that really
grates is that when you’re picking yourself off the floor, and it feels like she’s knocked half your flaming teeth loose, you know full well she’s pulling her punches’ he complained. ‘It hurts your dignity as much as your jaw.’
‘Talking of picking yourself up off the floor I saw from your arrival you’re still walking into things then?’ Dawn observed with a grin.
Spike sighed. ‘Too many months taking the direct path from A to B’ he replied sadly. ‘Walking around things instead of through them is going to take getting used to again’ he continued. ‘I walked headfirst into a wall yesterday, a sodding wall
’ he told her. ‘Right in front of Angel it was’ he told her, keeping his voice down so nobody else could hear, ‘rotten bugger laughed for at least five minutes’ he added bitterly. ‘There’s not an ounce of sympathy or compassion in the man.’
‘Nope’ Dawn agreed, ‘just broodiness and a soul that periodically goes AWOL’ she added with a smile. ‘Have you met our new receptionist yet?’ she asked.
‘Yeah’ Spike replied. ‘Made a point of telling me she always carries a stake and a can of mace in her handbag and then tells me I have to start putting in those stupid report forms the slayers fill in if I ever tangle with something’ he told her. ‘Like that’s
ever going to bloody happen’ he said rolling his eyes. ‘What’s her name?’ he asked. Davina was it?’
‘Diana’ Dawn corrected him. ‘She used to work for Wesley when he ran his own crew the year before last, with all the slayers still arriving and so much going on we needed more help with the paperwork, he said she was good at her job and it’s hard to get good administrators who won’t freak out when something demony happens.’
‘Hair pulled back like that, those glasses and the business suit’ Spike observed. ‘Wrapped way too tight if you ask me’ he said. ‘I bet what she really needs is a damn good…’ Spike paused remembering who he was with, ‘talking to’ he said after a beat.
Dawn laughed. ‘Speaking of which so have you talked to Buffy yet?’ she asked
‘Can’t think what to say’ Spike replied staring into space. ‘Not even sure I know what I want to say.’
‘Jeez Spike you had since June to think about it’ Dawn pointed out.
‘I kept putting it off’ Spike admitted. ‘Anyway I got a bit maudlin and self pitying at the end there.’
Dawn faked astonishment. ‘What really?’ she asked sardonically, ‘but you came over all chipper and not at all
whiney about the being incorporeal so long.’
The vampire narrowed his eyes. ‘Oi that’s enough of that’ he told her curtly. ‘It’s difficult’ he continued, his tone of voice softening as he returned to the original subject. ‘Buffy’s life is just so much more complicated now, she’s got all these new people she’s responsible for…’
‘You are such
a wuss’ Dawn told him.
Spike pouted for a second then he smirked. ‘So have you asked Angel junior out yet?’ he asked smugly.
Dawn blushed for a second. ‘What?’ she asked.
‘Oh come on, you were all over him at the New Years Eve party’ Spike noted. ‘I’d worked my way through half a case of Scotch by then and even I could see it’ he told her, ‘it was blurry but I could see it.’
Dawn was the one looking uncomfortable now which made Spike feel a lot better. ‘I just…’ she began. ‘I think he’s…’
‘Dreamy?’ Spike asked holding back a chuckle.
‘Interesting’ Dawn snapped back, ‘he’s got hidden depths’ she told him.
‘Just thank God he doesn’t take too much after his Dad’ Spike told her. ‘Personality and looks wise’ he continued before putting on a more serious expression. ‘If you like him tell him, trust me he’ll be flattered, take it from a vampire, you’re a tasty nibble knibblet’ he told her.
‘Why don’t you take your own advice then?’ Dawn asked smugly.
‘Rank cowardice and hypocrisy’ Spike answered, ‘but at least I’m man enough to admit it’ he told her. ‘Give me a few weeks to get used to being a proper person again alright? I can’t even take myself seriously at the moment what with all the falling over and walking into things.’
‘Okay’ Dawn agreed, ‘but just so you know, the waking up on fire if you hurt my sister thing still stands’ she advised with a disturbingly cheery smile.
Spike felt his cheek twitch. ‘Why do I keep meeting these unbelievably scary women?’ he asked despondently.Great Russell Street – London – January 2004
Roger Wyndham-Pryce checked his watch again and then put his hands behind his back. They were due to arrive any second but he frankly doubted they would, people simply didn’t take punctuality seriously these days he thought to himself looking around the room.
The builders and decorators had done a masterful job of repairing and renovating the building he thought. If it wasn’t for the empty bookcases still waiting to be replenished you would never know the entire place had been gutted by explosion and the subsequent fire just over a year ago, so many friends and colleagues annihilated in a split second Wyndham-Pryce pondered, the only ones left a few scattered field watchers the Harbingers had never managed to eliminate, who were now busy locating and dispatching newly empowered slayers to Los Angeles, and the Old Guard of retired and semi-retired watchers such as himself who were trying to rebuild the Council in the wake of catastrophe.
Wyndham-Pryce turned to one of his two colleagues also waiting in the buildings largest room and was just opening his mouth to speak when a blinding flash of light stopped him dead in his tracks, a young red-haired woman appearing in the centre of the room. ‘Sorry about this’ she apologised in an American accent, ‘if she hasn’t been somewhere before she can’t get pinpoint accuracy on the portal’ she explained. ‘I sometimes play pathfinder’ she said before dashing out of the way to the side of the room just as a black whirling vortex appeared at the exact spot the young woman had just been.
An even younger girl with pigtails and wearing what Roger Wyndham-Pryce considered a truly bizarre choice of apparel stepped out of the vortex. ‘Hello’ she said to the three watchers. ‘Nice to be home’ she continued in a working class London accent taking a few steps forward and turning back towards the vortex just as another girl stepped through.
‘Good Afternoon’ she greeted the men with a smile and a French accent that the well travelled Wyndham-Pryce recognised as Parisian before she took up a position near the first teenager to come through. A suitcase then came hurtling through the void, to be caught by the English girl and then passed to the French one to be stacked on the floor as more bags followed in quick succession. Finally a third girl the same age came through carrying a very large wooden crate. ‘Illyria’s got the other two’ she said in a Liverpool accent before gingerly placing the crate on the ground.
A slim women carrying two even larger crates, one on each shoulder balanced and held in place by her hands, stepped out of the portal just before it closed behind her. Two of the girls took the crates off her and put them down as carefully as the first. She looked completely normal except for blue steaks in her hair and the apparent ease with which she handled the awkward heavy boxes.
‘Introductions are in order I feel’ Roger Wyndham-Pryce announced.
The slender woman who had carried the two crates through looked him up and down. ‘I am Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, Shaper of Things’ she declared. ‘This is the witch Willow Rosenberg and the slayers Molly, Dominique and Natasha’ she told him pointing at them in turn. ‘Molly is assigned the job of Senior Slayer in the European Theatre of Operations, you and the other watchers here will accord her the respect due her status or she will have you demoted’ she told the trio of old men.
Molly’s jaw dropped. ‘Oh no’ she blurted out. ‘I like wouldn’t… I mean…’
‘You are a leader, you have faced death and led others in battle’ Illyria interrupted. ‘Act like it’ she told Molly sternly. ‘These men are here as your advisors not as your superiors’ she told her, ‘do not let them get the idea you are a tool for their use, the reverse is true, they are merely part of a support infrastructure for you and the warriors at your command.’
‘Ah yes hello’ Willow interrupted in an attempt to defuse the situation, Roger Wyndham-Pryce was starting to look quite enraged enough already at the lack of civility and tact of this interloper. ‘I’m Willow Rosenberg like Illyria said, and it’s nice to be back in England again even if I’m not staying long’ she said brightly putting on her most winning smile.
One of the other aging watchers looked her up and down. ‘Aren’t you the young lass who tried to destroy the world?’ he asked. He wouldn’t have usually been so rude himself but Illyria had set the tone.
Willow blinked. ‘Just the once and I’m all over that now’ she replied.
‘Glad to hear it’ the watcher replied wryly.
‘The other girls are flying over’ Molly told them. ‘We just wanted to get a team in place quickly because we’re already running behind schedule for setting up the European office and some of the things we’ve bought with us… wouldn’t be too popular with airport security.’
‘Firearms presumably’ Roger Wyndham-Pryce queried. ‘I had quite a selection pointed at me during my recent visit to Los Angeles to see my son.’
‘Assault rifles, shotguns, pistols and a few grenades’ Molly told him. ‘Plus some melee weapons, swords and knives mainly’ she added, ‘most of the heavy weapons are assigned to the Pylean Campaign but we’ll get some shipped in eventually once our supplier gets hold of them.’
‘The Pylean Campaign? Is that what you’re calling it?’ Wyndham-Pryce asked. ‘The entire idea sounded quite ludicrous when I was informed about it by Rupert Giles, a poorly envisioned leap into the unknown that will soak up Council resources indefinitely, far better to deploy what we have to protect people here if you ask me.’
‘Fortunately for the future of your species nobody did
either request or accept your counsel on the matter’ Illyria retorted. ‘A war cannot be won by defensive measures alone, the Wolf, Ram and Hart are by your standards eternal, they need to be defeated in all realms where they reside or else even if they were completely vanquished on this world they could merely return a few centuries later, when there might no longer be the knowledge to fight them effectively’ she stated. ‘You are small and you think small’ she told him. ‘Your mate must possess truly exceptional genes because your own contribution to your sons genetic makeup must surely have taken considerable compensating for.’
‘Illyria!’ Willow exclaimed.
‘How dare you’ Roger Wyndham-Pryce practical spat at Illyria, ‘to think my own son would associate with such a creature… it’s beyond comprehension.’
The God-King smirked. ‘How does the fact he associates with this
fit into your world view’ she asked morphing from her human “Ria” persona into her armoured form, the blue patches forming on her skin to match her hair and her eyes becoming glacial. Willow and the slayers barely registered the change, they’d seen it too many times, but even though they knew what she was the trio of watchers almost stepped back in shock. It was one thing knowing intellectually, seeing the truth with your own eyes was far more visceral. ‘You quail before me’ Illyria observed of the father of her beloved, ‘at last you show a glimmer of intelligence’ she told him, her smirk widening.
‘You really have to make allowances’ Willow said, ‘She’s just not a people person’ she told the watchers. ‘Or really a person if you’re going to be strict about it.’
is a monster’ Roger Wyndham-Pryce retorted. ‘The fact that so many cannot see it shows how far you’ve fallen from grace’ he continued. ‘I only hope that once you are freed from its malign influence’ he said turning to address Molly, ‘that you will see the light.’
‘Matter of fact if it wasn’t for Illyria I’d be dead by now’ Molly replied. ‘Thing like that makes someone grow on you so don’t hold your breath on that one’ she told him with a shrug. ‘So is there anything to eat around here?’ she asked, ‘feeling a mite peckish after the trip.’
‘It took seconds
’ Natasha pointed out.
‘Maybe it’s portal lag?’ Molly responded. ‘Sort of like jet-lag, only quicker’ she theorised. ‘My body thinks it’s time to eat.’
it?’ the other English slayer asked sarcastically.
‘Enough of that scouse backchat’ Molly told her, ‘I’m in charge here remember.’
‘Cockney tart’ Natasha retorted quietly with a grin.
Illyria reverted to her Ria form and turned to Willow. ‘You expressed a desire to go shopping in Oxford Street’ she said. ‘Shall we be going?’ she asked. ‘Wesley asked me to pick up some items for him’ she added. That wasn’t the only reason for the delay in returning to LA. After the recent bout of portalling back and forth between dimensions Illyria could feel that the shell was starting to lose stability and it was therefore best to give it some time to stabilise itself slightly again, even for the relatively minor act of traversing a few thousand miles within one realm.
Getting the God-King out of there seemed like a very good idea to the witch and she nodded her enthusiastic assent. ‘We’ll be back in a few hours’ she told the slayers. ‘You’ll be alright?’
‘We’ll be fine’ Molly replied, ‘just got to get set up in the new digs and get ready for a good nights vampire slaying’ she said happily. ‘I know this kebab place we can go to later’ she told Danielle, ‘best chilli sauce south of the river’ she said happily.
The French girl frowned, the sooner they got a nice Paris office the better, the English idea of what constituted food was even worse than the Americans, albeit with smaller portions.
Illyria showed herself out with Willow tagging along behind, maybe she could get something nice for Kennedy and teleport back home via a stopover in Cleveland she thought.
Roger Wyndham-Pryce muttered dark thoughts. Something needed to be done about the demon before she led the poor fools that had accepted her into their midst to disaster he decided.
‘So’ Molly began, ‘where can we lock up the machineguns then?’ she asked brightly.Wolfram and Hart Building – Los Angeles – January 2004
Lilah Morgan pressed the off button on the television remote which blacked out the image being projected onto the screen which itself then rolled smoothly up into its housing on the ceiling. In an unusual fit of pique she threw the remote onto the conference table where it bounced and clattered to a halt half way down the table, stopping in front of Izzerial who ignored it. She herself was surprised at her reaction, it wasn’t like it was the first time she’d watched the thing but it still pushed her buttons, the sheer audacity and cheek of it was infuriating.
The members of the Circle of the Black Thorne and their various aides and servants turned in their chairs to face Lilah who was herself flanked at the head of the table by Hamilton to the right and Hauser as her military advisor to the left, the latter looking a great deal scruffier in black combat fatigues than the former in his expensively tailored suit. ‘Their willingness to take such action surprised me’ Lilah admitted. ‘I didn’t think they had the cojones
, not yet at least’ she told the group, ‘but I’ve got to say the thing that really
pisses me off is getting a DVD film of the entire proceedings through the mail with backing music and a running commentary added as audio.’
The Archduke Sebassis slammed his fist down on the table. ‘They mock us’ he bellowed, incensed almost beyond words, ‘they mock us’ he repeated, ‘they treat us with derision and scorn’ he said. ‘They ridicule me by parading their slaughter of my warriors in such a fashion, me
who commands forty legions!’
‘I make it closer to thirty-nine and a half’ Ed, the Leader of the Fell Brethren, whispered to Izzerial sat next to him, the latter choking back laughter in response.
Overhearing the comment Sebassis glared at the pair of them and they both had the decency to look guilty about it. It was after all an attack on Wolfram and Hart and the Circle as a whole, not just one member. ‘I have already dispatched three more Legions to Pylea and they are securing the strategic positions on that world against another Slayer invention into our territory’ Sebassis declared. ‘The success of their cowardly sneak attack will not be repeated I assure you.’
‘It will be if you continue to try using swords, claws and teeth against machineguns and mortars’ Hauser interjected. ‘You just saw what modern weapons can do to a pre-industrial army’ he told the Archduke.
‘My warriors are mightier than any of your kind’ Sebassis declared haughtily.
Hauser crossed his arms. ‘I’ve killed demons’ he said. ‘The only difference from killing humans is how many times you need to shoot them to put them down’ he stated flatly. ‘It might be five times your strength, be able to rip steel plate to ribbons with its claws and shoot paralysing mucus out of its nose but if you blow its head off before it can get closer than thirty feet none of that means a damn.’
Lilah nodded her agreement, one of the greatest weaknesses of demonkind as a whole was that so few clans, especially the aggressive ones otherwise best suited for combat, were willing to use tools or artefacts, especially those of human design and manufacture. ‘Even if we assume only a small percentage of slayer resources are deployed in Pylea the damage they could inflict now they’ve clearly taken the gloves off is likely to be extreme’ she noted.
‘They cannot possibly think to take the world from us’ Sebassis retorted. ‘At most they have a few hundred warriors.’
‘I doubt they’d even send more than a few dozen and you’re right they can’t
take Pylea from us, even if they come out ahead at every engagement they cannot attempt to hold the ground they take or their campaign would instantly grind to a halt’ Lilah agreed, she had been discussing the issue with Hauser who was ex-military himself and seemed to know his business. ‘What they can
do is annoy the crap out of us and hope we eventually give it up as a lost cause because it’s not worth the effort of staying.’
Hamilton meshed his fingers on the desk. ‘Illyria doesn’t think like a slayer’ he said. ‘She, or rather it, was a warlord with a deserved reputation as a superior tactician and strategist’ he told them. ‘Buffy Summers would never have conceived of an operation such as this so we must assume that the God-King is the one pulling the strings, which furthermore means they’re working to a plan.’
‘And given that Illyria is immortal the bitch could be thinking very
long-term’ Lilah interjected. ‘So the question is have we
got the stomach to take the losses, to hold out until they
quit’ she asked rhetorically. ‘Just because Illyria might be willing to accept having slayers stuck on Pylea fighting us for year on end that doesn’t mean the slayers themselves
will be willing to stick it out as long as it takes’ she continued. ‘They want a war, we’ll give them a war’ she said imperiously, ‘Wolfram and Hart has always been in it for the long haul, they might be all flush with excitement at their new status as the new tough guy on the block but this is still our
turf and we won’t give up without a fight’ she declared, ‘and if they’re taking the gloves off then so are we’ she added.
‘The Senior Partners have authorised a change in our off-world policy in order to meet this threat’ Hamilton announced. ‘Each branch office on Earth is receiving orders to dispatch a section of their special ops personnel to the LA Office in preparation for redeployment to Pylea, additionally we are stripping our holding dimensions of part of their guard establishments who as you know are both trained and armed with automatic weapons and moreover equipped with armoured Troop Carriers.’
‘Humans?’ Sebassis said in shock. ‘You are dispatching human troops to Pylea?’
‘Well the holding dimension guards aren’t really human as such’ Lilah noted, ‘they’re really just constructs like Hamilton here, but you’re correct in that the special ops we’re sending are’ she agreed. ‘We’ve already put the plan into motion’ she told them giving Hauser the nod to explain.
‘My own second in command will be in charge of the units we’re sending to Pylea’ Hauser told them. ‘They are mainly intended to act as advisors to the occupation forces in terms of modern human weaponry and tactics’ he explained, ‘although they will be fully armed and will take on a combat role when needed’ he told them.
Sebassis opened his mouth to speak again but Lilah raised her hand to interrupt. ‘Yes we know most of your demon troops don’t play well with others, especially humans, but you do have several species under your command who are less rigid in outlook and we will integrate our advisors to units primarily made up of those clans’ she advised him. ‘At the moment the slayers have the monopoly on firearms and explosives on Pylea and that gives them an advantage we can’t allow.’
Hamilton nodded. ‘Fight fire with fire, or rather firepower with firepower’ he said.
‘And let’s see how much stomach the slayers have for fighting on another world when the bullets are heading towards them for a change’ Lilah added.